CULTURE

Fashion fights breast cancer with style

While global brands are usually known for their ability to generate desire, one brand has gone well beyond pure consumerism. The «Fashion Targets Breast Cancer» logo is all about the power of a simple idea, in which the sale of one T-shirt alone has raised nearly $20 million for breast cancer research, awareness, treatment and support worldwide. Launched at a White House reception hosted by Hillary Rodham Clinton, first lady in 1994, the US campaign kicked off under the leadership and guidance of Ralph Lauren. It was immediately offered support by high-powered retailers, the fashion press and media, stunning models and members of the US ruling fashion body, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Instigating the campaign was Lauren, who in 1989, as a CFDA board member, urged the fashion world to do something about the illness. The celebrated designer was in fact rallying support for his good friend, Nina Hyde, former fashion editor of the Washington Post, who eventually succumbed to breast cancer in 1990. With Lauren as the driving force, Polo Ralph Lauren created the venerable logo which was subsequently offered as a gift in trust to the CFDA Foundation, the charity arm of the CFDA. Campaigns in other countries followed. As the Greek branch of the campaign celebrated one year earlier this week, the Hellenic Cancer Society – through its president, Professor Nikolaos Dontas – was presented with a 180,000-euro cheque aiding the establishment of a Breast Cancer hot line for women to call in Greece. Beginning this week, the hot line will be supporting self-testing, with small groups on the phone in Athens, before other lines of communication are established in Aigion, Patras, Ioannina and Rhodes. Inaugurating the campaign in Greece were Marianna Milissi and Marilena Stratopoulou, of Blue Concept advertising. «We are positively impressed by the Greek campaign’s success,» said Tony Staffieri, executive producer of Fashion Targets Breast Cancer Worldwide, to Kathimerini English Edition. Noting the courage, vision and perseverance of Milissi and Stratopoulou, he was also quick to point out the great importance of the combination of sponsors on both a local and international level; in this case, Eureka in Greece and DuPont Lycra, which is sponsoring the campaigns worldwide. Following the presentation of the Greek campaign’s new collection for this season, Staffieri said,«Just as it was important to show the new color, it was important to show to Greek women where the money went.» He added that the CFDA Foundation receives certified accounting statements from all partners. So far in Greece, the results have been spectacular: Over 40,000 T-shirts have been sold, making the Greek campaign – proportionally – the second most successful in the world, after the Brazilian one. On a world level, designer support is hugely important. With designers such as Oscar de la Renta wearing the T-shirt in public over a suit and tie, the campaign was given credibility right from the start. «Breast cancer is bigger than any one designer, and this campaign brings designers together, they can be creative without being competitive,» said Staffieri.» The CFDA Foundation set up partnerships with cancer associations in Brazil, Argentina, Britain, Australia and Iceland, and operating campaigns are currently unfolding in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Britain, the USA and Greece with more campaigns coming up in Cyprus (sponsored by Eureka) and in Turkey (sponsored by DuPont Lycra, this will be the first Muslim state to support the just cause) as well as China, Italy and Japan. Retail giant Saks Fifth Avenue and the CFDA Foundation came together in 1999 to set up a National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, featuring a shopping weekend across the USA (taking place at Saks’ 61 US stores, 51 OFF 5th stores as well as online at saks.com) to raise awareness of the campaign. One of Saks’ largest fund-raising events, this year it took place from September 18 to 21 (it has so far raised $6 million for the cause). In Brazil, the campaign, through the sale of the T-shirts and other products, helped in the construction of a new wing in a cancer hospital, while in Australia, it is helping cancer research; in the USA, it benefits many groups fighting the illness. «When in fashion do you get a chance to save anybody’s life by doing what you do? Never,» said Staffieri. «This campaign is a rare opportunity and the fashion designers are very proud of this.» While the US campaign was and remains based on blue, when the sister British campaign began, UK partners wanted to develop another color. Coming up with a sensationally successful mint and mauve, two years later they went for yellow, while the current color is orange. Taking its cue from the UK, the Greek campaign kicked off with yellow, while Milissi and Stratopoulou also introduced hip items such as a Merino-wool sweater or a one-piece Lycra dress with a built-in brassiere (the local campaign has been so successful, it is sparking copies). This season, the Greek collection has a backdrop of black and gray, with an exciting range of tops to be worn throughout the day (from knitwear to an elegant discreet sequined version for the evening). Does the brand, its charities and the issue in general have the power to go on for many years to come? «Hopefully, breast cancer will be cured in the next 10 years,» said Staffieri, who has been actively involved in the campaign since the first day and who lost a dear friend to the illness. «The key is that each campaign has a life cycle in each country. In Greece, for instance, we are planning something around the Olympics in collaboration with the organizing committee. At the same time, what we are trying to do now is accelerate the message in smaller countries. Every campaign peaks in each country, but there are a lot of countries out there.» No matter where the campaign goes next, however, the message remains intact. «We are selling style, we are selling fashion, we are selling a cause,» said Staffieri. «In a business which is deeply shallow, this is a wonderful thing to do.» Hellenic Cancer Society Hot line, 010.640.1200, daily from 8.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. – 8.30 p.m. Selling points You can find Fashion Targets Breast Cancer Hellas T-shirts at a variety of selling points. In Athens: Andreas Coiffures, Artisti Italiani, Beautyworks, Bebe, Boudoir, Cam, Chez Florette, Deux Hommes, DKNY, Elina Lembessi, Ex-Es, Freestyle, Georgios Doudessis, Harris & Angelos, Hondos Centers, Lakis Gavalas, Lambropoulos, Liana Camba, Lussile, Maurizio, Rose & Rose, Sotris, Stenia, The Body Shop, Tony & Guy, Top Fashion Woman, United Sales, Votre by B, Giorgos Eleftheriades. Around Greece: Active, Bolero, Chic, Elle, Florou Excel, GB Coiffures, Ioannis Parthenis, Luso Accessories, Norma Jean Antoniades, Pantazatos, Papadoulia, Pezodromos, Skoura Sofia, Stefanel-Volos, TNG, Vlachos Michalis and Fagia Loukia.